It was my first visit to Ireland, and boy, what a lovely place it was. The people were just so lovely, proud and passionate about their country and what it had to offer. The scenery was spectacular and the green was just so intense, so green, it almost looked like someone pushed the saturation button to the max, it was that green. It still felt like it was in the beginning stages of spring, with new leaves decorating all the trees and bluebells lining all the single-track trails. The air was still pretty fresh and chilly, but we were lucky enough to have perfect sunny weather for the entire week of practice and for race day – a pretty rare occurrence in Ireland from what the locals say.
We had quite a big break between the first round of the EWS in Rotorua, New Zealand and this past weekend in Ireland, so it was almost like starting from scratch again in terms of getting back into the whole race mode and getting back up to speed. It was good to get it all going again and to get the European season started. We got to Ireland a few days before practice so we could at least sample a few of the local must-do things kindly recommended by Biking Ireland (the amazing organizers), before being engulfed by the race schedule. Our first stop was the Avoca café for some amazing homemade food and cake for desert of course, and then a leisurely, very informative stroll around Mount Usher Gardens, trying to identify all the tree’s (and work off some of the creamy cake). I couldn’t believe how many tree’s there were that we get in New Zealand & from China of all places!? Something else I really enjoy doing is trying out a yoga class at every race venue, it’s not always available in most of the small mountain towns, but we found one and had a lovely morning of yoga at Ananta Yoga in Wicklow before practice started.
The morning of the first day of practice is always an exciting day, I always feel like a kid in a candy store at the prospect of riding all the new trails in a beautiful new place. We had a big day out, riding stages 1 -4 twice each, which ended up being a massive day and in hindsight, probably a bit too much, so the next day I only did one run on stages 5 – 7 to save a bit in the tank for race day. We got really lucky with another sunny day for race day, thank goodness, as it would have been pretty miserable doing all that climbing in the rain. Even though the trails were fairly easy and not that hard compared to the usual EWS tracks, and it was a deceivingly smaller hill than the usual big alpine mountaintops, it still ended up being a massive day out in the saddle, with loads of climbing, loads of pedaling in most of the stages and I even got sun burnt in Ireland! Who would have thought?
I was really happy with how my race went, despite a small mechanical, a few small mistakes on most of the stages (pretty impossible to have 7 clean race runs), and pretty weary legs towards the end of the day, it was an amazing day out and managed a 15th spot. The crowds were insane; they were so amazing, so encouraging and super supportive. I’ve never seen so many families and kids out on a racetrack ever before. I’ve never seen so many women pushing prams (strollers), up and down fire roads before either and we had a gazillion kids racing us up the fire road climbs. We could hear them hooting and hollering from the top of every start gate, making us feel excited and anxious all at once. It was truly a magic representation of the Irish spirit and their passion for the sport of cycling. The cherry on top of course was local favorite Greg Callaghan taking the win and legend Tracy Moseley taking the top step for the ladies.
A huge shout out to the Irish organizers, the Enduro World Series crew, and everyone that helped me throughout the week. My Juliana Roubion rode like a dream thanks to Tom Duncan and my belly was kept happy thanks to Allan from Santa Cruz Bicycles. St Patrick’s Day is definitely going to have much more meaning to me from now on J
Next stop, the ferry from Belfast to Peebles, Scotland for round 3 of the EWS.
And in case anyone was wondering what the hell a leprechaun really was, see below:
1. A mischievous little man, often clad in green, who moves your remotes and steals your underwear in the dark of night.